If “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” then there is some truth to this with the state of the peace talks in Havana, Cuba; between the Colombian government and representatives of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP) guerrillas.
One of the contentious issues with many Colombians, since the peace talks were inaugurated in October 2012, was how much was going to be revealed by the negotiating teams as they faced each other behind closed doors.
The “lock down” mode in Havana was the modus operandi of a process which has made important advances on all first points of an agreed upon Agenda, yet communicated to the general public with strict guidelines from the government and only though the Colombian chief negotiator and spokesman, Humberto de La Calle.
On Wednsesday September 24th, the government issued a key statement – its Comunicado Conjunto No. 44 – in which the delegates of both the Government and FARC agreed upon a joint draft of the Final Agreements and which will reveal the totality of the accords reached in regards to the Agenda’s main thematic points, which covers agrarian reform, political participation of FARC and a way out for the country with the issue of illicit drugs.
Since the start of the conversations in Oslo, and then Havana, the government has insisted on these talks being shrouded in secrecy, in order to for both sides to talk freely and advance towards the “construction” of agreements. ‘We were aware of the need to communicate to Colombians the progress of these talks,” stated De la Calle during an offical press conference in Cuba, Wednesday. “And to contribute to the transparency of these talks. But, we also recognise that our efforts haven’t been sufficient,” stated De la Calle.
During the press briefing, the chief negotiator also admitted that many Colombians were basing their opinions on unfounded rumours and a general sense of mistrust with the state of the peace process as a result of not knowing what was happening in Havana. In an unprecedent move to lift this shroud of secrecy, both the government and FARC agreed to “declassify” the totality of the texts and which amounts to 65 pages of negotiated agreements to end a conflict which has lasted a half century. “We have a profound conviction that these accords represent the foundations for peace and assure that the conflict doesn’t continue,” stated De la Calle.
Even though the release of all the Havana documents is an important step towards clarity in these negotiations and which aim to end Colombia’s long standing internal conflict, the process remains far from over, especially when trying to agree upon a definitive timetable to formally end the conflict.